6:03:14 Gymnastics vs. Alabama

Kentucky sophomore Raena Worley performs on the beam during UK’s meet against Alabama on Friday, Jan. 29, 2021, at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Kentucky. Alabama won 196.775-196.350. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Kentucky’s gymnastics team has been on the rise over its past three meets. After cracking the 197-point plateau in its victory versus then-No. 5 Arkansas two Fridays ago, they tangled with the nation’s top team on its home turf last night. While they didn’t achieve a third-straight season-best outing, the Cats put up a solid effort all around and have signs of encouragement despite falling short of a Florida upset in Gainesville.

The Wildcat drop off was only slight, as they tallied their second highest team score of the season with a 196.875. The Gators demonstrated why they top the College Gymnastic Association rankings though by putting up a 197.500, an impressive number that’s even more spectacular when considering they were absent four of their top performers and head coach due to injury and COVID-19 protocols.

Some nights are like this in gymnastics. Without being able to defend against your foe, you can only dictate so much of a result. Kentucky fell a tad short of its lofty standards on the first two events, putting them behind the eight ball.

“We got off to a slow start,” head coach Tim Garrison said postgame according to the university. “We pulled it together on floor and beam to finish strong, but the deficit we created on bars and vault was too much to overcome.”

The Cats recorded a 49.075 during its showcase on the uneven parallel bars, representing the lowest Kentucky-team total among the four apparatuses. Both Raena Worley (9.900) and Cally Nixon (9.875) matched season-high personal marks in the event, while reigning SEC Co-Freshman of the Week Bailey Bunn and Josie Angeny each snagged 9.775.

The Wildcats followed with vault, on which they combined for a 49.125. Nixon paced the group with a 9.850, and three performances earned a 9.825. Among that trio was Isabella Magnelli, who, like Worley and Nixon on bars, tied a season-best with the feat.

Five different Kentucky gymnasts secured a 9.825 or higher on their floor exercises, leading to a 49.325 squad-score. Worley led the way with a 9.925, with Angeny and McKenna Clarke tying for second-best with 9.850.

Beam served as the Wildcats’ top apparatus of the night. Their 49.350 was buoyed by three routines at or above the 9.900 threshold, including a season-top-matching 9.900 from Angeny, a year-high 9.925 from Bunn and a career-best 9.950 from Worley, whose complete 39.600 set a new individual career-high all-around mark.

Garrison believes his crew’s showing will help it rise in the CGA Top-25, which is always nice, but isn’t the absolute best it will need to bring to come away victorious over its stiff competition at this late stage.

“This score should help our ranking,” he said. “But at this point in the season, we need to have complete meets to get the wins we're after.”

By virtue of its SEC membership, Kentucky has essentially matched up against top-twn opponents through the entirety of its 2021 campaign. That doesn’t change in its next contest, when it takes on No. 2 LSU in Memorial Coliseum on Friday, Feb. 26. You can watch the Cats attempt to maintain their string of stellar performances at 7:00 p.m. E.T. on SEC Network.